World Refugee Day 2021: Khaled's Success Story

Khaled, a Palestine refugee in Lebanon, is particularly proud working with UNICEF as a UNV

14 June 2021
Photo of Khaled in the field playing with children
Khaled Abo Al Omarein

My definition of changing the world? 

To make a difference,

leave a real, visible imprint in society,

support children and prepare them for the future.

The World Refugee Day, celebrated on June 20th every year, gives us the momentum to present an empowering career story of a young refugee, that can inspire each one of us, and shows that opportunity is all one needs to shape their own future, with dignity, even in the most dire circumstances.

Just like in the story of Khaled, a Palestine refugee in Lebanon. Today, Khaleb holds a degree in communications, and he is particularly proud working with UNICEF as a United Nations Volunteer (UNV).

The background, and life in the camp. 

Khaled was born in 1996 in Gaza, before his family left three years later fleeing war and violence. He grew up in Ain al-Hilweh, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon with a population of over 70,000 Palestinian refugees. (However, with the influx of Syrian refugees since 2011, its population today is estimated to have risen up to 120,000 people). He went to a UNRWA school inside the camp, one of the 65 that the Agency runs in the country. UNRWA provides education services to more than 35.000 Palestinian and Palestine refugees in Lebanon, the only country where the Organization offers secondary education.

Khaled first started engaging in community activities at the age of 17. “I started working with NGO's as a volunteer in 2012. I worked with different local NGO's inside the camp as animator and social worker. I worked with the most vulnerable children inside the camp, conducting home visits, to assist them with their economic situation, and doing a social study to include them in the beneficiaries of the NGO programmes”, he recalls.

Photo of Khaled in the field
Khaled Abo Al Omarein

When his contract with the NGO ended, he started seeking for new opportunities. Doing his own online research, he bumped onto UNV page and saw that UNICEF was recruiting a Youth Advocate for the Palestinian programme. He applied, did an interview, and got selected for the post.

"I have served since 2018 as a Youth Advocate, and in 2019 as Programme Associate, in Beirut office. Then I moved to Tyre field office as a Programme Officer for the Palestinian programme. My main duty is to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the programme in the Palestinian camps in the south of the country”, he explains.

About displacement, refugee children, and work during COVID-19

What are your main responsibilities and tasks? 

My main role is to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the programme in the south area. I daily follow up with partners, conduct field visits, take care of visibility issues and collect data.

What new challenges were posed by the COVID-19 pandemic for your work, and you personally? And what were also the new opportunities? 

In general, the biggest challenge for refugees during the COVID-19 pandemic was that they were not included. A refugee did not get health care If they were infected. But a plan for refugees was quickly developed based on capabilities in the camps.

On the personal level, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic affected and increased psychological pressure on us, and increased anxiety and fear for our families and patients in our community. When it comes to work, working remotely was a new experience, but with coordination and daily follow-ups with colleagues we overcame this obstacle and we succeeded in developing a plan for emergency response. We participated in coordinating awareness campaigns, and I gained experience working in emergency and crisis situations.

What do you want everyone to know about displaced children?

Refugee and displaced children have the right to a childhood, the right to education, to play, and to live in peace. They have all the rights as stated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In fact, refugee children need special psychosocial support, especially during crises, and when they experience poverty. We all must advocate for the rights of refugee children.

Despite displacement and asylum, and the discrimination that brings suffering, refugees are outstanding in their work, and students excel in their schools.

Khaled, what is your definition of changing the world? 

To make a difference, leave a real, visible imprint in society, support children and prepare them for the future.

Message for the World Refugee Day: “Build you skills, continue your path...” 

Build your skills, continue your path to reach your goal, and always be sure that excellence comes from the womb of suffering. You will feel pleasure when your see your dream becoming reality. Nothing prevents you, just remove the obstacles from your path and continue to achieve for yourself first, then for those who believe in youth and children. We are all humans, and we all have the right to live in peace. Hope exists, and the dream can become true.


Khaled monitoring the distribution of supplies in Palestinian camps during the COVID-19 pandemic
Khaled Abo Al Omarein
Khaled monitoring the distribution of supplies in Palestinian camps during the COVID-19 pandemic

UN Volunteers at UNICEF 

UNV collaborates with UNICEF and other UN partners, such as UNHCR - The UN Refugee Agency, to open pathways for refugees to shape their future. These programmes are working to change perceptions of refugees as passive recipients of assistance, to one where refugees are active agents of change while creating a positive impact in their communities.

> Click here to learn more about the UNV Programme and volunteering at UNICEF